If your freezer seems like a chest of buried treasure that you have to dig through to find something to thaw and eat, you’re not alone. We rely heavily on the freezer to preserve most of our fresh foods. Not only is freezing foods quicker and easier to do than canning or drying, but it also locks in the freshness, flavor, and the nutrient content, provided you do it correctly. Keeping the faithful freezer organized, and cleaned out, however, can be a challenge.
To help you successfully freeze your favorite meats, seasonal fruits, and vegetables, we’ve put together a list of general freezer storage information.
How Long Can You Freeze Foods?
While freezing preserves food, and stops bacterial growth, it doesn’t exempt food from taking a hit on flavor. That’s why it’s good to follow these guidelines for how long to keep frozen foods. A general rule for freezing most foods is a maximum of 8 to 12 months. The National Center for Home Food Preservation offers this approximate list of freezer storage times, when the food has been properly prepared and packaged, and kept frozen at 0°F or below.
Note: This doesn’t mean the food will be unsafe to eat, but rather that it will lose flavor and texture. For best quality, they suggest using the shorter storage times:
Food Approx. # of months of storage at zero degrees F
Fruits and Vegetables 8 to 12
Poultry 6 to 10
Fish 3 to 6
Ground Meat 3 to 4
Cured or Processed Meat 1 to 2
Trouble Shooting Freezer Tip
Whether you buy produce from the local market or spend time growing an abundance of fruits or vegetables, you want to ensure the nutrients and garden-fresh flavor is retained throughout the freezing, thawing and cooking process.
Here's a helpful, expert tip:
"If your frozen vegetables are mushy, you may have blanched them too long. If they're mushy and they have big ice crystals on them, then they froze too slowly, due either to the fact that your freezer isn't cold enough or you packed them in too tightly when first freezing them," excerpt from the book, Stocking Up III, by Carole Hupping, and the staff of Rodale Food Center.
Don't Freeze These Foods
1. Lettuce and salad greens, including raw celery and cucumbers lose their crispness and flavor when frozen due to their high moisture content. Store fresh salad greens in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.
2. Whole potatoes are best kept in a root cellar, unheated basement, or other cool, dry place, out of direct sunlight. Potatoes have a high water content and will become watery and mushy when frozen and then thawed.
3. Milk loses its smooth, creamy consistency when frozen. Milk should only be frozen if you will be thawing and using it as an ingredient when cooking, not for drinking. Milk can be frozen in ice cube trays, then transferred to Ziplock bags, to use in place of ice when making blender smoothies, etc.
4. Yogurt, regular and Greek becomes watery, and loses it thick, creamy consistency when placed in the freezer, and then thawed. Best eaten fresh.
5. Sour cream, like the above dairy products does not maintain its thick, creamy texture or rich taste when frozen.
6. Raw eggs frozen in the shell will expand and break the shell open, causing the eggs to ruin. Raw eggs can be frozen, after removing each egg from its shell and place it in the freezer container large enough for its liquid content to expand during the freezing process.
7. Cooked pasta and rice becomes mushy when frozen and then thawed.
We freeze bags of fresh blueberries from our bountiful bushes. What's going in your freezer this harvest season?
About the Author:
Deborah Tukua is a nonfiction author, and editor of Journey to Natural Living. She is author of seven books including, Naturally Sweet Blender Treats: 55 Fresh from the Blender Recipes, and Marketing Strategies for Chiropractic Success. Deborah has been a regular lifestyle feature writer for the Farmers' Almanac since 2004.
Articles and recipes by natural living and healthy lifestyle author and writer,
Welcome to Journey to Natural Living. Join us on the journey as we share articles, recipes, and tips to empower you to live a healthy, proactive lifestyle.
Sign-up for our monthly newsletter below.